There was a time long ago when I dreamed of being Shirley Temple. Shuffle step. Shuffle step. But times change, and as I grew, Debbie Reynolds and Cyd Charisse took the lead in my fantasies, tap shoes fading into silver high-heeled slippers. I could have danced all night, if only I knew how to dance.

But now I am grown, and so are Shirley Temple and, I presume, Debbie Reynolds. All of us have, I trust, lowered our sights.

And now I just want to be Cathy Ozmore.

Cathy Ozmore does dance all night. And all day. On Mondays the Plum, Tuesdays Maxim's, Wednesdays the Big Apple or One Central Plaza, Thursdays Elan, and weekends in Baltimore at Girard's or Maxwell's. All that, after a day of teaching at Discostep. Cathy Ozmore's feet never lose a beat of the Washington sling. One-and -two-and-three. Double twirls and wraps and cuddles and dips, through them all her feet never slip a single two-and-three. Cathy Ozmore is simply the best dancer I have seen on a disco floor. And I have seen a lot of them in the past few months, 25 or so discos from Fairfax to Rockville, with a field trip to The Real Thing, New York's Studio 54.

When they say New York is big, you can take that literally. If Washington's disco floors joined forces, they could hardly accumulate as much dance-floor space as Studio 54, and if they were laid end to end, any self-respecting dancer would just use them as a road to Manhattan.

Studio 54 plays a game of exclusivity, choosing to admit only whoever strikes the doorman's inexplicable fancy. But once inside, everyone is part of the party: transvestities in red wigs. Models between costumes. All manner of folk, even everyday people.

Anything goes in dancing, too, from musical comedy to plain old freestyle. Nobody's watching, anyway, once the lights and silver streamers and booze and funny-smelling smoke are going strong.

Washington's light-shows and smoke-blowers are high-school productions compared to Studio 54's act: Neon flashes sunbursts. Light-edged catwalks careen overhead. Smoke in every color and flavor. It looks like a giant theater's backstage with all the props plugged in.

You can see a touch of Studio 54 in the Plum's electronics, and the party at the Pier is as loose. But some dimensions are missing from our local discos. Studio 54 may cost $12 midweek admisision, but you can pay more at Kennedy Center for less-absorbing shows, and at Studio 54 your ticket entitles you to be on stage.

If I am not Cathy Ozmore, it isn't because I haven't tried. I have taken introductory course after introductory course. At Vic Daumit's dance studio I nearly became a regular as Nolan drilled me on tiny little syncopated steps while flinging me into spins and back again. I practiced in my living room, my study, once or twice at my office when the place was cleared for lunch hour. I have been elbowed at Elan, stepped on at Maxim's. My shoes came off at The Buck Stops Here. My dress gave out at Studio 54. I have contracted disco feet and disco leg and disco arm. I have carried myself through gray Mondays on the strength of applause for being the only couple courageous enough to dance at Coco's. At L.A. Cafe they asked us to be sure to come back again. My children no longer leave the room when we do the New York Hustle.

But Cathy Ozmore I am not.

Yet all has not been in vain. In trying to learn to keep my step (not to mention my balance) through all those mad twirls, I have learned more than I ever needed to know about Washington's discos.

Here, at introductory rates, is your first course in the Washington disco scene.

Don't bother to look for universal rules. What goes at one disco already went at another. Dancing is as much as they have in common. And if you think you have seen the scene at one disco, when you go back another night or the next week, it may have totally changed. During the course of this research, one disco changed its mood and crowd and management twice, then turned into an African restaurant.

Only two universal laws emerge. If a woman wants to be taken as disco-wise, she chews gum. And for a man, the disco equivalent of a black belt in karate is a vest. Buttoned. APPLE OF EVE -- Everything is upholstered in heavily textured and handsome geometric fabrics, even the walls. The tables are marble, the carpet deep, the space plentiful. Apple of Eve is richly endowed. Expensive taste was vented on the glassware, the ashtrays, the mirrored panels on the walls. In all, it is a lovely cocktail lounge with a disco floor as a sideline. The patrons look like hotel inhabitants, fairly dressy and somewhat staid, nibbling Ritz crackers and cheese spread. The dance floor is medium size, smooth and seamless, lit by a dense pattern of colored lights in the ceiling that form pretty designs that are not overstimulating. And on a Saturday night there was plenty of room to dance. In Loew's L'Enfant Plaza Hotel. Hours: Monday through Thursday, 9:30 p.m. to 2 a.m.; Friday and Saturday, to 3 a.m., disco closed Sunday. Phone: 484-1000. Apple Tree, D.C. -- The downtown Apple Tree has a lot of everything: a lot of youngsters, a lot of oldsters, a lot of blacks, a lot of whites, a lot of Arabs, a lot of Americans. The one thing it does not have a lot of is space. Most of it is used for bar and lounges, and on weekends the Apple Tree is a meat market, with men and women eyeing, actually surveying each other. The disco floors are off to the side, one large, the other small and far from the music so that the sounds are faint for dancing. The large one is a mirrored cave in which the music echoes. Most of the dancers are terrible, as if they wandered into the bar and found they had nothing to do with the partner they picked up but dance. The few extraordinarily good dancers we saw on Saturday night were tourists who wandered in, and the Apple Tree's dance instructor, who gave a demonstration that would make it worthwhile for even John Travolta to pay the $5 admission. The disco jockey plays five fast songs, then three slow ones, so if the floor is too crowded, you'll have a chance after the transition. But dancing is just a sideline at the Apple Tree. 1220-19th Street NW. Hours: Monday through Thursday, 8 p.m. to 2 a.m.; Friday and Saturday, to 3 a.m. Closed Sunday. Phone: 223-3780. APPLE TREE, McLEAN -- The best-dressed disco in town is the new suburban branch of the Apple Tree. Blond wood has been carried to its greatest glory, on the bar and high tables. The tree in the middle of the room, built of patches of bark and starry lights, is the Apple Tree logo, and the forest theme is carried onto leafy wallpaper. It looks like a fantasy garden. Overlookling this disco garden is a glass-walled dining room furnished like a veranda so diners get the show without the noise. The most luxurious touch to the Apple Tree, though, is space: There is plenty of it. Two separate dance floors are both quitie large, constructed of smooth wood and easy to dance on. I visited soon after it opened, before a cover charge was in effect, and it was drawing Virginia's disco teachers and a crowd as well dressed as the room. Men were wearing jackets and vests; women had bared their shoulders and wrapped themselves in colorful silks. And the dancers were a nonstop show with as much dash as their costumes.Comfortable sofas and lounge chairs, hors d'oeuvres set on a buffet in the dining room, the very dance-worthy music added points to make this eclipse anything else Washington offers. 7403 Colshire Drive, McLean. Hours: 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. Phone: 893-0830. THE BUCK STOPS HERE -- The nighttime transformation does not hide the fact that by day this is a cafeteria, but entering past the outdoor fountains gives this disco a spectacular introduction. The Buck Stops Here serves two functions well. As a cocktail lounge, it has plenty of tables far enough away from the music to talk. As a disco, the lighting is tame, the music loud but not deafening, and the floor large and smooth, with no seams or edges to trip you. The disc jockey caters well to the crowd, playing slow tunes to bring them out on the floor then switching to a fast pace to clear the floor for showy dancers. There are a few, but mostly the dancing is freestyle. The show is more in the dress, women in silky things with slits, men in cool ties and shirts. They dress better than they dance, but there is plenty of camaraderie. The crowd was largely black. It is a table-hopping place. The cover charge on a Friday night was $3. Not bad, except that it was impossible to find a waitress when you needed one. 1725 F Street NW and 1726 G NW. Hours: 8:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. Phone: 347-3737.

COCO'S -- No other dance floor in Washington has a conversation pit or macrame wall hangings. It looks part ski lodge and part disco, the disco part being equipped with mirrored walls and an edging of tiny white lights, revolving colored lights and a medium-sized dance floor of parquet that was broken in parts so that you could trip with little effort. Jeans and button-down shirts were the uniform of the evening. The music was loud, danceable, except that the disc jockey kept switching from one beat to another abruptly. More action was at the bar, with its computer games, than on the dance floor. But the staff was folksy and welcoming, and the occasional switches to country and western square dance music added a touch of native charm. 3111 Columbia Pike, Arlington.Hours: 8:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. Phone: 920-5450.

GALAXY -- Galaxy's dance floor is a wasted resource. It is fairly small, but smooth-surfaced and surrounded by carpet and no ledge to trip you. Behind the floor is a wall with rows of flashing lights in primary colors, kind of like a psychedelic parimutuel board. The ceiling, lit with Lucite canisters, looks like a colored plastic galaxy. It is a dashing setting, surrounded by soft sofas and club chairs on rollers around orange cube tables. The audience seemed to be tourists, too tired to get up from those comfortable seats. So nearly nobody danced. The music is a mix of fast and slow, unobjectionable and familiar sounds. The crowd is staid, dressed as if they plan to stay through Saturday night for church the next morning, the men with white shirts and three-piece suits, the women with bows tied at their necks. They do get up to dance to the slow music on occasion, but mostly they watch the few brave exhibitionists and the waitresses with bare midriffs. So there is plenty of space on the dance floor for you. 8727 Colesville Road, Silver Spring. Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 9 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. Phone: 589-5200. GLASS ONION -- There is a certain kind of disco where the music is louder in the ladies' room than on the dance floor, whre in between discs you hear the sound of a blender. The Glass Onion is one of those, posh and glossy and inoffensive night places that are sleek and clean-cut. You can sit on soft leatherette chairs or sofas with candles flickering on your little black table, and watch the floor show, which is highly polished dancers in their 20s and 40s, with few in between. Some of the dancing is spectacular, particularly on contest nights, and the floor is smoothly metallic. The music is straight pop, loud but not overwhelming. The revolving mirrored ball and colored lights throw rhythmic spots of color into the audience, so you can feel you are participating even when sunk into your sofa. It is a pretty, glittery room, focused on the dance floor, making the dancers clearly the show. 9021 Gaither Road, Gaithersburg. No details available on hours. Phone: 840-2228.

IMAGES -- This is big time. Live bands play, and the waiters really act like waiters rather than somebody whom you happened to persuade to find you a drink. Weekends there is a cover charge, but even weekdays there is a $4 minimum plus automatic 15 per cent tip.It is a stylish joint, with a not-to-young crowd wearing everything from silk disco shirts to mechanics' shirts but never a white belt or button-down plaid. The decor is imaginative, splashed with tiny white lights like stars on the walls and in the floor, puppets and fans and a salmon-colored glow over all. Very polished. Very lush. But how it works for dancing is another story. The floor is smooth, and occupies sufficient space. But it is not only curved, it is on two levels, so you are confined to a narrow space and are in frequent danger of falling off the edge. There are enough expert dancers that they handle the danger. But when a live band occupies a substantial portion of the floor and the music has been raised to a deafening pitch, dancing at Images is a challenge. 1801 K Street Nw. Hours: Sunday through Thrusday, 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday to 5 a.m. Phone: 457-0310. L.A. CAFE -- Disco life may be going strong, but the L.A. Cafe looks terminally ill. Pay $5 admission weekends, which will include two drinks if you can find anybody to serve them to you. Climb the cruddiest stairway since before Chez Camille replaced its carpet. The room is large, echoing with the emptiness. Crepe-paper streamers dangle with a few balloons from a party -- or is that the permanent decoration? A mirrored ball revolves, looking as lonely as you feel on the dance floor. At 10:15 on a Friday night, the bar was not yet open. One couple in jeans practiced a routine in front of the mirrors. The lights were bright, the music heavy rock with volume full. That led one companion to speculate that the reason discos are so popular in Washington is that it is physically impossible to talk politics in them. L.A. Cafe was once furnished tastefully, with brick walls and framed prints. But the chairs have been shoved to one side so you have to climb over one to get to the other. The dance floor is black and white tiles, raised from the floor to make it easy to trip in case the floor should ever get crowded. There seemed no danger of that. 1214-18th Street NW. Hours: 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Closed Monday. Phone: 659-1337. THE LIBRARY -- As the name suggest, the Library is very cushy. The sofas are soft and deep, tempting you to stay in them rather than venture onto the dance floor. Service is prompt. The walls are lined with bookshelves, but it would be difficult to read "Life With Father" in the flashing lights. Still, the lights are moderated. The music varies to appeal to all segments of the crowd, which is also varied. The trouble is that the disc jockey -- established in chrome-wrapped playpen that looks like a spaceship command center -- seems drunk with power, the power to empty the dance floor with the flip of a disc. The dance floor is silvery and smooth, a good medium for showing off the very practiced dancers the place draws. Although all sorts and ages frequent the disco, the bar specializes in swarthy guys in aviator glasses. That's so you won't notice that what they are really watching is the slide show behind the disc jockey. It looks like a TV commercial without the text, and is one mindless way to spend an evening. 8120 Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda. Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 8 p.m. to 1 a.m., Friday and Saturday, to 2 a.m. Phone: 652-2000, ext. 7152. LOST AND FOUND -- Like most gay discos, Lost and Found tries to discourage straights at the entrance, with a sign saying it is for gays, but inside is one of the friendliest, most easy-going bars in town. There is no place to sit, but the walls are carpeted for comfortable leaning. The large dance floor of smooth tile is raised just enough to make dancing near the edges dangerous. One minute the floor -- and room -- will be nearly empty, then suddenly the crowd will fill the place.As the evening crowds, the music gets louder, changing from fast to slow, heavy to soft. The lights also grow flashier; Lost and Found has one of the most pleasant lighting systems, with rows of tiny sparkles and spotlights in pale colors rather than blinding reds, so they are not too intrusive. Large as the dance floor is, it draws little partnership dancing; freestyle is the style, in couples and trios and singles and groups. The crowd is mostly but not exclusively men, with not a silk shirt in the crowd. The uniform is white T-shirt and jeans, with a few discreet gold neck chains. Chic it is not, but comfortable and fun, worth the $3 admission, particularly since it includes drinks. 56 L Street SE.Hours: Monday through Thursday, 7 p.m. to 2 a.m.; Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m. to 3 a.m., Sunday, noon to 2 a.m. Phone: 488-1200. MAXIM'S -- If you want to know what you are getting into before you risk it, Maxim's has a video camera that shows you the dance floor scene at the front door. Admission is $1, and there is a full weekly schedule of activities, including Saturday night disco lessons for $3. The best thing about Maxim's is its disco jockey, wearing red shirt, suspenders and the kind of hat you expect to find on a horse. He dances along to the music himself on his balcony, mixes slow and fast music, keeps the crowd moving and amused. The crowd is all ages, wearing all kinds of outfits from Saturday shopping clothes to black satin skin-tight pants. Nearly everybody has learned the hustle or the sling, and there are some fine dancers in the crowd. The problem is that the floor is small and crowded, so after people get elbowed and gouged, in self-defense the crowd switches to freestyle dancing, sometimes in groups. The parquet floor crackles, which feels as if you are dancing on pine needles and sounds downright embarassing during slow dances. The lighting is heavy-duty stuff, with revolving red and green lights that look like Christmas and some that are more like police lights. Then there are strobes to totally disconcert you. The room is large, but from many corners you cannot see the floor. And since the show is good, you way want to stand at the bar to get your money's worth. 8150 Leesburg Pike, Tysons Corner. Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 9 p.m. to 2 a.m.; Friday and Saturday, 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. Phone: 893-8333

ONE CENTRAL PLAZA -- Everyone at One Central Plaza has taken dance lessons, and many are continuing them right on the dance floor. The room is large and plush: Why shouldn't it be, since it was an Edwardian expense-account restaurant before they pushed all the tables and chairs aside to make the dance floor. Fortunately, the metamorphosis to disco was incomplete, so the rows of colored lights that replaced the chandeliers are reasonably sedate. The floor is enormous, more a ballroom floor than a disco floor. But with everyone doing partnership dancing with double swirls and swinging elbows, the space is vital. The music and its volume are about what you would find at dance class, a heavy beat but not too loud. The crowd is dressed to the hilt, with satin pants and plenty of silver and gold. Skirts are swirly. Men wear vests or suits, even a few boutonnieres. And everyone dances as if a camera is pointed straight on. It is just a case of life following art, for around the walls are giant video screens showing discos' class acts to inspire the crowd. Dance teachers like One Central Plaza on weekday nights. No riffraff here; on a Friday admission was $5, which included two drinks and a 2 a.m. breakfast for anybody who lasted that long 11300 Rockville Pike. Hours: 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. Phone: 881-2801 THE OTHER SIDE -- No sign is outside, the point being that if you don't know where it is, you are not supposed to find it. This is a women's gay disco, with men welcome but in the distinct minority. A sign at the entrance warns that neither transvestites nor jeans are allowed. I don't know about transvestites, but nearly everyone was wearing jeans. Most of the curved booths along the walls are reserved by people who have had dinner in the rear restaurant. Drinks are served by waiters in shorts. The setting is friendly and comfortable. And the room is one of the more attractive dance settings around. The oval dance floor is sunken, and rimmed with vertical columns of tiny white lights. The ceiling is a mass of industrial-looking lamps in soft colors. The light starts the evening dim and subtle, grows brighter as the music gets louder and the beat heavy enough to shake the tables. It even drowns out the pinball machines. Most of the dancers are women, and nearly everyone is dancing freestyle. As the floor gets crowded, nothing else would be possible anyway. Admission is $3, which does not include drinks. 1345 Half Street SE. No details available on hours. Phone: 554-5141. PARAGON TOO -- Another restaurant-turned-disco, Paragon Too is a cavern of brick with the traditional restaurant look of red carpeting and wood-paneled walls. A disco module has been constructed in the middle of the floor, a black-and-white tile floor with a rotund "tree" in the middle edged with pulsating colored lights. The floor is large, but much of its usable space is taken by the tree, so people wind up dancing on the carpet. The lighting is dim and colorful, the only disconcerting part being the revolving spotlights that look like police lights. The crowd is clean-cut, mostly hovering around 30, out on the town with spaghetti-strap dresses, the men with shirts open to the navel. The mix is more varied late in the evening, everything from Marine-shaved heads to beards. Most are there, it seems, to socialize rather than dance or watch dancing, particularly since pillars block much of the viewing space. Music includes occasional slow songs, generally top-pop stuff. It is a place where a bad dancer does not feel out of place. The competition is far from stiff. 2233 Wisconsin Avenue NW. Hours: Friday and Saturday, 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. Phone: 333-8200. THE PIER -- Plastic-lovers stay away, but everyone else is welcome. The Pier is a gay disco, and one of the best ongoing parties yet invented. It is an earthy mix of men, women and combinations thereof, with everything tolerated, including straights. Despite a $5 cover on weekends, a long line forms outside. Inside, there is standing-room only, with high tables to lean on. The music is loud and heavy. Colored lights flash and revolve. Mirrors shaped like palm trees, neon -- not a kitsch trick is missed. The place smells of all sorts of things, powder above all. Every costume goes, with men in shorts, ankle socks and high heels a favorite. On the dance floor, too, anything goes: dancing with tambourines, dancing alone in the aisles. The dancing includes some of the wildest in town, if not the best. And if you aren't taken aback by anything that goes on, you can recognize that nobody will be taken aback by you, either. Besides, late in the evening the frenzy turns into a blur. Fuzzy but not forgotten. 1824 Half Street SW. Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday, 9 p.m. to 2 a.m.; Friday, 9 p.m. to 3 a.m.; Saturday, 8 p.m. to 3 a.m. Phone: 488-1205. PIERCE STREET ANNEX -- What is it an annex of? A fraternity house, some mythical Hollywood fraternity house, with guys in button-down plaid shirts looking slightly self-conscious with their hands in their pockets or shaking the ice in their glasses.The decor is kind of Westernized poor man's Palm, with caricatures on the walls, saloon doors and Tiffany lamps. The disco -- using the term loosely -- even has a cafeteria. The linoleum dance floor is sizable, the music moderately loud, just the stuff you heard on WWDC that afternoon on the way home from work. The crowd is man-heavy, young, shy. The dancing is so amateurish that you have to watch for flying elbows or heel jabs: This crowd just doesn't know how to dance safely. And someone was doing the foxtrot to "Ring My Bell." The lights are just bright, not playful. But there is a folksy, down-home quality to the Pierce Street Annex that is as refreshing as a scotch-and-soda after a week of frozen pina coladas. 1200-19th Street NW. Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 8:30 p.m. to 2 a.m.; Friday, 5:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m.; Saturday 8:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. Phone: 466-4040. THE PLUM -- If your idea of a disco is music loud enough to vibrate your chair and leave your ears ringing for an hour, lights pulsating until your brain pulsates with them, and smoke pumped in to make the room look like a blue hell, then the Plum is your place. The lighting is the most active and intrusive of any disco, whirling and pulsating and flashing. The floor size is deceptive, since a mirrored column in the center takes up vital room: The hustle and the sling, which are the Plum's primary styles, take space. The walk from the entrance to the dance floor requires you to squeeze past the long bar. But with all the obstacles, the Plum draws The Dancers: partnership and freestyle, good, bad and superb. They wear everything from tights and T-shirts to long gowns, square-dance outfits, slinky tubes slit to the waist. Experts' night is Monday, when dance-school staffs hit the Plum after a weekend of avoiding discos because of the crowds. That is the show to see. 1119-21st Street NW. Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.; Friday and Saturday, to 3 a.m. Phone: 466-2616.

PORT O'GEORGETOWN -- Midnight on a Tuesday, cigarette butts littered the dance floor, but the room was empty; we wondered how long they had been there. Likewise dirty glasses and beer bottles cluttering a shelf. One lone couple necked in the corner; we were the crowd. Above the dance floor a mirrored ball hung, along with eight lonely colored lights. We tried to dance, but the shabby chipped furniture should have served as a warning about the dance floor, which was full of potholes. No matter. The music slid from disco to semi-jazz-latino Muzak that one of our group described as "a little bit faster than the music your dentist would have." M and 31st Street NW. Hours: 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Phone: 338-6600. ST. TROPEZ -- It looks like an expatriates' hangout, and it doesn't seem to matter what kind of expatriate you are as long as you are one. Arabs usually predominate, with French, Latins, Asians and Georgetowners sprinkled through the crowd. It does get crowded, but most of the crowd is there for something other than dancing. The floor is small, a raised platform with two levels, meaning more edges to trip you. The music is loud, so nobody is there to talk, either. What is unique about St. Tropez is that people really do wear what is known as disco dress. Rippled lucite shoes. Bare but swirling dresses. The kind of clothes you could hardly wear anyplace else. It is more than a disco: It is a parade ground. 2101 Wisconsin Avenue NW. Hours: 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. Phone: 333-2030. STUDIO 54 -- Those four units from 50 to 54 make a lot of difference. Studio 50 is just a motel basement, plaid-carpeted and furnished with motel chrome and vinyl. The ads say it has the largest disco floor in the area, and it is big. But the seating area is so packed with tables that it is difficult to get off the dance floor, and the host kept bringing in more tables and chairs as more people arrived, until the seating area was even more crowded than the elbow-to-elbow dance floor. The music sounds like B-list popular music. The $2 cover came as a surprise. The lighting has a tawdry low-budget look, with two revolving spotlights and tiny lights in primary colors. But this scullery-maid of a disco turns into Cinderalla at midnight. A sign warns that jeans are not allowed, but even the waitress wears jeans. The early crowd is in shirtsleeves and T-shirts on a Saturday night, maybe a vest over the T-shirt. The early crowd look as if they have never danced together before or they are practicing lesson No. 2. They are young, their mustaches not hiding it. Later, through, large groups of Orientals and Arabs come, groups socializing between tables, women wearing bare dresses, men wearing suits and vests and disco shirts. The dancing is slick, cool, very flashy. The floor gets so crowded that one man stands on the carpeted floor, his partner on the raised platform twirling to the flick of his wrist. The crowd has brought its own ambiance. 6633 Arlington Boulevard, Falls Church. Hours: Tuesday, 8 p.m. to 1 a.m.; Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. to 1 a.m.; Thursday, 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.; Friday and Saturday, 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. Phone: 532-9000. THEODORE'S -- Despite a dress code that requires collars on shirts and bars denim and corduroy, the dress at Theodore's is casual and low-key. Women wore skirts or polyester pantsuits with vests, boots even in August. Men had their lower chests exposed, but there were no hotshot disco costumes. The dance floor is small, and a crowd makes it feel claustrophobic in the center. That, plus a hole in the center of the floor, make you want to keep to the edges -- one elbow in the nose served as a warning. Most of the dancers have practiced their routines, but the dancing is more efficient than glamorous. The music is Top 40s interspersed with slow tunes. Even on weekdays the floor is crowded, and people are obviously having a good time despite the flying elbows. They are there to dance. Some are there to play backgammon, though, or just to lounge in the living-room setting -- complete with table lamps, sofas and electric fireplace. Every comfort is provided, from red velvet chairs to a popcorn machine. I-95 and Seminary Road. Hours: 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. Phone: 751-4510. TIFFANNE -- Everybody was dancing at Tiffanne. Most of the time not a seat was taken, for every person was on the dance floor, doing freestyle dancing with flair, singing along to the music. Tiffanne is a black disco that looks like an ex-restaurant (and does serve reasonably priced food to the dancers). A few Art Deco touches, gold tablecloths and bits of greenery are the main decorative features, but the dance floor is central. The floor is wood, fairly small and raised from the floor. the music is loud, with a heavy rock beat. Colored lights flash, mirrored balls revolve, and the dancing shows lots of style. Weekends Tiffanne is very crowded and costs $5 cover ( $3 Sundays). Weekdays are tamer. The dress is stylized, chic, with rolled-up pants and gold stiletto heels. Women usually wear pants, but the newest. Men wear suits, all kinds from safari to three-piece. And people act as if it is a good party, which it usually is. 2015 L Street NW.Hours: Monday through Thursday, 4:30 p.m. to 2 a.m.; Friday and Saturday, 4:30 p.m. to 5 a.m.; Sunday, 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. Phone: 833-5595. TRAMPS -- Tramps, aiming for elegance more than flash, dresses its waitresses in black tie and decorates the room with smoked mirrors and brass chandeliers. It is a handsome, cozy room, but the placement of a fireplace on the dance-floor wall turns the mantel into a lethal weapon ready to poke you in the back if you dance too close. The floor is small enough that three couples crowd it, but most of the people line the long polished bar or sit at candlelit tables. The floor is smooth and danceable, with colored lights above it that start out circumspect but dazzle more in the late hours. The music also gets louder, the beat heavier. The music is pure disco, going so far as to include Ethel Merman with a disco beat. Jackets are required, and the crowd is well dressed, conservative. Women usually wear dresses. Many men have a tourist look, and upon inspection turn out to be -- tourists. They are there to watch, unless they find someone to dance with, and the floor is plainly visible. Most of the dancing is sedate, freestyle, for one or two partnership dancers would absorb most of the floor space. 1238 Wisconsin Avenue NW. Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 8 p.m. to 2 a.m.; Friday and Saturday, 8 p.m. to 3. a.m. Phone: 333-2230.